Another leafhopper…

On the 13th I came across another species of leafhopper (Cicadellidae) whilst inspecting the moth trap, and following my recording of Acericerus heydenii (possibly the first ever record for VC61), I have been keeping an eye out for more of these fascinating little bugs. Eventually I was able to identify the species that I had found on the outside of the Skinner trap as a male Metidiocerus rutilans (with thanks to Tristan Bantock for confirmation), another under-recorded species with perhaps just a single previous record here in the East Riding of Yorkshire (VC61).

The species is primarily associated with Sallows in the southern half of Britain but is known to winter on pines, the most likely source of the species here at Woldgarth as Sallow does not occur within the garden or within the neighbouring woodland. The record was also fairly early for this species, most records coming between April and November, but given the recent, indeed almost April-like weather, the early record is perhaps not that unexpected.

For me one of the great things about moth-trapping is that you never know what else might turn up when you take the time to check the trap thoroughly, the richness of the natural world always bringing something new to admire and enjoy 🙂

…and other invertebrates

The warm and almost April like weather which we enjoyed earlier in the month also brought a host of other insects and other invertebrates to the garden, including the first butterflies of the year and a great diversity of bees and hoverflies. The first butterfly was noted on the 7th, a lovely Comma (Polygonia c-album) sunning itself on the ivy covered south-facing wall having the honour of being the first flutterby of the year, whilst the first Peacock (Aglais io) was recorded on the 15th. Bumblebees have also continued to appear since the first Buff-tailed BB (Bombus terrestris) was recorded back in February, with Tree Bees (B. hypnorum) proving particularly abundant from the 9th onwards. The rise and rise of this relatively new incomer looks set to continue in 2017. Other species seen recently have included at least one White-tailed BB (B. lucorum) and a few male Hairy-footed Flower-bees (Anthophora plumipes), the first confirmed record of both these species coming on the 15th.

Hoverflies have also appeared in great diversity in the past couple of weeks, the two species seen in February (Meliscaeva auricollis & Eristalis tenax) being joined by two more (at least) in the shape and form of Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus) and Tapered Dronefly (Eristalis pertinax). On the beetle side of things large numbers of Harlequin Ladybirds (Harmonia axyridis) have dominated sightings, indeed I still haven’t found any ‘native’ ladybirds in the garden this spring, whilst a species of Flea Beetle was also seen in large numbers on a few of the garden plants. On the 13th the first Common Flowerbug (Anthocoris nemorum) of the year was encountered on the outside of the Stevenson screen, with a few more observations of this attractive and abundant bug since then.

Finally the Wolf spider species (Lycosidae) which occurs in large numbers in the gravel driveway and around the sun-baked front aspect of the house are now widely apparent when the sun does indeed shine, the excellent eyesight and the turn of speed that this species possesses always making them a challenging photographic subject. This same part of the house has also brought sightings of several, and clearly individually distinct, Zebra Spiders (Salticus scenicus), though interestingly every single specimen I have seen so far has been female. I wonder what the rest of March will bring ?

…this little fellow is also happy to see the invertebrates back again 🙂

Early March Moths

After a slow January and February in which just a handful of moths and a couple of species were recorded, things have really picked up in the past couple of weeks with an early flurry of night-flying lepidoptera here at Woldgarth. Many of these moths have come at our new mothing location in a small neighbouring woodland, the 15W Actinic Skinner utilised at this location at the very least equaling the number of moths drawn to the 125W MV Skinner we currently operate in the walled garden. Indeed I have high hopes for this new trap in the coming weeks and months, and it just goes to show that you can still get excellent results with a relatively low-powered bulb and a trusty old ‘Skinner’ (the utilitarian in me still prefers the basic Skinner design over the expensive and ‘professional’ Robinson).

In total 84 moths of 17 species have been recorded since the beginning of March, three of which have been new additions to the Woldgarth list, whilst a few others have only been recorded in the garden once or twice before. The new additions have included Early Moth (Theria primaria), Pale Brindled Beauty (Phigalia pilosaria) and Agonopterix ocellana, whilst other ‘good’ moths have included Pale Pinion (Lithophane socia), Shoulder Stripe (Earophila badiata), Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata) and a very early Pale Mottled Willow (Caradrina clavipalpis). The Agonopterix ocellana (or Red-letter Flat-body) was a particularly interesting observation with just 12 previous records in VC61 (prior to 2012), whilst Pale Pinion has also been recorded fewer than a 100 times here in East Yorkshire. Interestingly I recorded Pale Pinion last spring as well (22.04.16).

TOTAL MOTHS RECORDED (1st-17th March 2017)
29.001 March Tubic (Diurnea fagella) x4
32.007 Red-letter Flat-body (Agonopterix ocellana) x1
32.018 Common Flat-body (Agonopterix heracliana) x1
45.010 Beautiful Plume (Amblyptilia acanthadactyla) x1
45.044 Common Plume (Emmelina monodactyla) x1
70.066 Shoulder Stripe (Earophila badiata) x2
70.095 Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata) x1
70.245 March Moth (Alsophila aescularia) x3
70.247 Pale Brindled Beauty (Phigalia pilosaria) x1
70.255 Dotted Border (Agriopis marginaria) x1
70.282 Early Moth (Theria primaria) x1
73.069 Early Grey (Xylocampa areola) x10
73.095 Pale Mottled Willow (Caradrina clavipalpis) x1
73.201 Pale Pinion (Lithophane socia) x1
73.242 Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta) x22
73.244 Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi) x26
73.249 Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica) x7

Bempton Cliffs

We enjoyed our first trip up to Bempton Cliffs yesterday morning on what was an improving sort of day, indeed when we left home it was still raining with low cloud and murk over the Wolds, but thankfully by the time we arrived at Bridlington things had drastically improved with spells of sunshine bathing the East Yorkshire coast. With light south-easterly winds it even felt quite warm on the cliff tops, at least when the sun shone, and all in all we spent a very enjoyable morning and early afternoon at this premier RSPB nature reserve which we are lucky enough to have within less than an hour’s drive from our home near Hull.

Being only early February we had anticipated a fairly quiet morning on the cliffs, but to our surprise thousands of Guillemots (Uria aalge) were already on the narrow chalk ledges, whilst thousands more were out on the relatively calm waters of the North Sea. I even managed to pick out a couple of ‘bridled’ or ‘spectacled’ Guillemots amongst the throng, always a pleasing observation. Good numbers of Razorbills (Alca torda) were also in their usual spots near the cliff tops, though again far more were seen out at sea, whilst their was also a report of at least one Puffin (not seen by me), a remarkably early record.

Gannets (Morus bassanus) and Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) were also seen in excellent numbers cruising along the cliffs, indeed I don’t think I have ever seen so many Fulmars at Bempton before, whilst gulls included Herring, Black-backed, Common and even the odd Kittiwake (a Glaucous Gull was reported today but I missed it unfortunately). On the sea a few Shags (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) were noted swimming and diving into the frigid waters below our vantage points, and further observations from the cliffs included at least one Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus) below Staple Newk Viewpoint.

Away from the cliffs a few other ‘good’ birds were about, including 2 to 3 Stonechats (Saxicola rubicola), one of which seemed determined to pose for as many photos as possible, whilst it was also good to hear a few singing Skylarks (Alauda arvensis) over the cereal fields immediately west of the cliff-tops. However best of all was at least two Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus) quartering over the rough fields south of the visitor centre, my first SEO since one was spotted on my ‘home-patch’ back in late November. The number of Short-eared Owls at Bempton in recent weeks was the main reason I wanted to visit the reserve today, and I am glad to say I wasn’t disappointed, two of the owls chasing each other at one point, whilst another settled down no more than 100 yards away from where we watched. All in all a cracking sort of day with plenty to see and enjoy 🙂

North Cliffe Wood

A couple of hours at this nature rich woodland brought plenty to enjoy, even if the weather was not quite so joyful with grey skies and a cold breeze sweeping across the bracken, rush and ling covered heath. Such dull and chilly weather doesn’t usually bode well for birding prospects, though it was nice to catch up with a party of Siskins (Spinus spinus) in the southern birch woods, a bird, which I at least, have seen little of this winter down on the East Yorkshire lowlands. A check for any Redpolls among them proved fruitless, but it was good to catch up with a few Marsh Tits (Poecile palustris) in amongst the roving mixed tit flocks. Out on the heath a Green Wood-pecker (Picus viridis) was heard, as were a couple of ‘mewing’ Buzzards (Buteo buteo), though perhaps the biggest surprise came in the heart of the wood where 6 to 7 Teal (Anas crecca) were flushed up from one of the dark & stagnant ditches which run through the wood.

Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) were far less numerous than during our last count, but nevertheless four were flushed up, this undoubtedly just a fraction of the actual number which call this wet woodland their home during the winter months. Out on the cereal fields west of the reserve a good number of winter thrushes were feeding, with around 50 Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) and roughly 10 Redwings (Turdus iliacus) searching for food, though the most welcome sight and sound here was a couple of Skylarks (Alauda arvensis), not singing yet but making their presence known nonetheless. A further observation came in the shape and form of a hovering Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), the falcon in question showing a particularly rich and colourful plumge.

As is usual at this woodland, the water table is continuing to slowly rise with most of the ditches and the bogs now nearly full and saturated, this despite the fact that this winter has been largely dry with just 46.8 mm of rain since the beginning of December. No doubt water levels will continue to rise in coming weeks, usually peaking in March regardless of actual rainfall in any given year, though for the time being water levels are below the access paths, this making access no problem at all for even the most ill-prepared.

Further observations during our Sunday morning stroll included evidence of two common leaf miners, including Holly Leaf-miner (Phytomyza ilicis) on, yes you guessed it, Holly, and Chromatomyia primulae, a common leaf-miner often found on Primrose and Cowslip. Incidentally the new leaves of this year’s Primroses are now starting to appear in the shelter of the hazel coppice, a cheering sight, whilst the green spikes of Bluebells are also everywhere to be seen. Meanwhile a Fox (Vulpes vulpes) was encountered along the central path, the beautiful mammal slinking off into the thick undergrowth as soon as it spotted us, and further mammalian interest was provided by a handsome Hare (Lepus europaeus), one of my favourite British mammals.

Acericerus heydenii

On Thursday evening I discovered a species of Leafhopper (Cicadellidae) on the outside of the rabbit shed, the relatively large specimen conspicuously located just above the door as I went out to give the rabbits their evening dinner. Thankfully the shed also hosts much of my moth-ing and beetle collecting equipment, and I was therefore able to collect the species with one of my specimen jars before it had the chance to escape. After photographing it I set about trying to identify the species, by no means an easy task, though the fact that our garden and the immediate area is lacking both Poplar and Willow did at least help to narrow it down to the Acer loving species (both Sycamores & Field Maples are abundant around here, including some rather large and mature specimens).

? Acericerus heydenii ?
Acericerus heydenii

Initial research was pointing towards Acericerus vittifrons (or Idiocerus vittifrons) but the more I studied the bug in question I wasn’t totally convinced, many of the key features of this species not quite fitting what I was seeing. However the most crucial feature was actually the size, the bug in question measuring at the very least 6.5 mm, whilst A. vittifrons is just 5-6 mm in size, much too small. However I then discovered a Dutch website which listed a few species which were not listed elsewhere, and it was here I stumbled upon Acericerus heydenii. Every-thing seemed to fit, including size, and I therefore went on twitter to try and seek confirmation of my suspicion, Tristan Bantock (link) kindly confirming that it was indeed A. heydenii, and a male specimen to boot. At this point I would like to thank Tristan for his assistance and knowledge, and indeed all those that helped to point me in the right direction.

This species of leafhopper is actually a relatively new arrival to the British Isles, the first records coming from a few sites in Southern England during 2010 (link). Unlike many new additions to the British List which have been accidentally introduced to the country in recent times, it would seem that A. heydenii probably arrived by its own means, so to speak, from the near continent. However since leafhoppers are very much an under-studied group it could be that the species is more widespread than the current data possibly suggests, though as far as I can find out the specimen found yesterday in our East Yorkshire garden is perhaps one of the most northerly yet, and may well be the first ever record for VC61 (subject to confirmation).

This entry was posted on January 21, 2017, in Bugs.

North York Moors

A crisp day on the moors with a ‘thin’ wind blowing across the exposed hilltops, though to be honest I love this kind of weather, cold and dry winter sunshine being preferable to the wind, murk and damp that we otherwise have to put up with during the winter months up here. Much of the snow which fell yesterday had already melted, especially below 150 metres where only patches survived in the shadier spots, but up on Goathland, Sleights, and Wheeldale Moors a light covering persisted. Best of the wintry conditions were around the ‘top-end’ of Cropton Forest and the curious communities of Stape and Raindale, the roads here still covered in snow and ice in places.

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A panoramic view across the Esk Valley

Wildlife wise little was about, which is not all that surprising given the wintry conditions, though the male Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) which usually resides along the A169 was spotted in his usual haunt near the turn off to Goathland and Beck Hole at the top of Sleights Moor. I always look for this colourful little fellow on the drive up to Grosmont and he rarely disappoints, the bird in question usually on one of the fence posts which line this busy road which runs between Pickering and Whitby.

At Cropton Forest a flock of Crossbills (Loxia curvirostra) was heard somewhere deep amongst the pines which make up this vast commercial forest, but try as I might I failed to actually spot any. Crossbills are one of my ‘bogey’ birds and one I have rarely seen well, though many moons ago whilst climbing Ben Nevis with my father, we did enjoy some outstanding views in Leanachan Forest of these colourful and curious finches. One day I will get a photo of one… hopefully. Elsewhere the ever present Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus) were widely evident, whilst down on the lowlands a few flocks of Golden Plovers (Pluvialis apricaria) were seen in the arable fields of the Vale of Pickering in the company of Lapwings and Common Gulls.